Alter Bridge, the Orlando-based hard rockers comprised of the original members of Creed with Myles Kennedy on vocals rather than Scott Stapp, are set to release their 5th studio album on Friday, 10/7. “The Last Hero” follows up on 2013’s Fortress, which has been my favorite Alter Bridge album. Until Now, that is. Early on, Alter Bridge was a band I struggled to like; being a fan of Creed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I wasn’t happy with their breakup – or essential firing of Scott Stapp and replacing him with Myles Kennedy – and then seeing Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall & Scott Phillips form a new band with Kennedy. I liked a song of theirs here and there, but it wasn’t until Kennedy teamed up with Slash that I really began to appreciate the raw power and emotion in his voice and then began listening to Alter Bridge with a different perspective and a new appreciation for what Myles brings to the band.
Now, Alter Bridge are set to deliver an album that features 13 brand new, ass-kickin’ tracks for their latest studio effort, and it all begins with the album’s first single and opening track, Show Me A Leader, a song that is largely about the America’s current political market, and just happens to fit the bill perfectly – one of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be crowned our next “leader” in just about a month, though the song was written before either was considered a legitimate candidate – and it certainly provides the perfect narrative for the “dog and pony show” that Kennedy described our current system as. The song itself is solid, and made for a great first taste of the album, but it’s the second single that really shines.
That second single is “My Champion”, and is the reason we here at Soundboard Magazine asked for the album early to review. My Champion had us sold on the album from the first time we heard the very deceiving opening riff that makes you think the song is going to be a little on the mellow side, before going into one of the best guitar riffs I’ve heard in a long time. The lyrics themselves have been described by Kennedy as a reminder of his youth and the things he dealt with as a kid, and words of encouragement he received from various people. The track is clearly meant to be inspirational while still being a kick ass rock song, and it delivers on both while sending the message that life isn’t fair and you’re going to get knocked around, but you can always get back up. It’s been a favorite of mine since I first heard it, and I continue to blast it every chance I get.
The track immediately following My Champion, though, is by far my favorite and in my opinion, the best on the album. That would be Poison In Your Veins, and it is easily one of Alter Bridge’s best songs – I’d put it up there with Fallout, Fortress, I Know It Hurts and Metalingus – it’s just that good. The guitar work on Poison In Your Veins is incredible, Kennedy shines vocally, and the whole thing just comes together for a hard hitting rock song in a similar vain as My Champion, where Poison sticks with the inspirational theme.
We’ll skip ahead a few tracks and go to the obligatory ballad on the album – You Will Be Remembered – a song about sacrifice and loss that the band described as a “tribute to heroes like anybody who’s served the country or community”, certainly a touching song to show respect to the country’s soldiers as well as law enforcement and other first responders, and at a time while this writer pursues a career in law enforcement no less. It’s nice to see bands show their respect through song, and Alter Bridge does a fine job with You Will Be Remembered.
Crows On A Wire is another solid song on an album full of them, but I want to skip ahead to the album’s namesake and closing track, The Last Hero. The nearly 7-minute epic serves as the perfect conclusion to an album that is solid start to finish, and while the riffs are not as heavy and the vocals are not as powerful and emotional as other tracks on the album, it still does its job. Hearing Myles Kennedy scream “tell me where are the heroes!?” at a time when it sure seems like the world could use a Batman with all the bad things on the news every day makes you wonder if heroes really exist – of course they, and they wear camo – and where they are when you need them.
The tracks we haven’t touched on, The Writing on the Wall, The Other Side, Cradle to the Grave, Losing Patience, This Side of Fate, Twilight and Island of Fools round out the album’s 13 tracks, and all have a meaning behind them, and the epic drumming of Scott Phillips on Losing Patience backs up Kennedy’s powerful vocals in a way I’ve never heard before. That’s to say, I haven’t found myself paying such closer attention to a drum beat on a song in a long, long time. I was a guitarist for about 5 minutes in a past life, so I gravitate to guitar riffs, but the drumming of Phillips stands out on Losing Patience.
The guitar riffs from both Kennedy and Tremonti on The Last Hero are incredible, and it’s no secret that Mark Tremonti is one of my favorite guitarists – though I do have a print of a photo I shot of Myles Kennedy while they were on tour with Disturbed hanging on my “office” wall – and for good reason, Tremonti one of the best in rock today. That’s not to say Kennedy is a slouch, Slash went on record saying he thinks Myles is a better guitarist than even himself, and Kennedy really does shine both in his guitar work and vocally on the album.
Alter Bridge have certainly created a masterful album with this one, which in my opinion is far and away their best yet. Seeing Alter Bridge on tour this past summer, I was hoping they’d play some new music, but the fact that they skipped over all the new tracks is a good reason for me to see them again when they make it back this way to support The Last Hero. Alter Bridge have become a favorite of mine over the years, and the new album solidifies just why I’ve fallen in love with them.
1. “Show Me a Leader”
2. “The Writing on the Wall”
3. “The Other Side”
4. “My Champion”
5. “Poison in Your Veins”
6. “Cradle to the Grave”
7. “Losing Patience”
8. “This Side of Fate”
9. “You Will Be Remembered”
10. “Crows on a Wire”
12. “Island of Fools”
13. “The Last Hero”